We are less than two months away from the start of the 2018 college football season. First set of games is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25th. Though most schools won’t start until the following week.
If you haven’t started preparing, now is the time to get started. Before you know it, opening week is going to be here. In fact, Week 1 odds are already out and open for wagering.
This is also a great time to get your future wagers in. If you can afford to set some money aside for a few months, NCAAF win totals can provide a great opportunity to build your bankroll.
2018 College Football Predictions: Power 5 and Group of 5 Conferences
Last year provided plenty of excitement and drama, but when it was all said and done, it was Alabama finishing on top once again. The Crimson Tide crushed Clemson in the Semifinals and pulled off an epic comeback in the championship game against Georgia. The other two playoff teams were Clemson and Oklahoma. It was the first time that the same conference had two teams in the playoffs.
The best player (Heisman) in country was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who finished just ahead of Byrce Love (Stanford), 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Saquan Barkley (Penn State) and Rashad Penny (San Diego St).
Enough about last year, it’s time to turn our attention to this upcoming season. Here’s a quick look at who I have winning each conference. I’ve also included my playoff projections, Power Rankings (Top 25 + more) and future odds.
*Click on link for individual conference previews*
While Alabama proved to be the best team in the country in 2017, they technically weren’t the best team in the SEC. That title belonged to Georgia, who defeated Auburn 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide lost a winner-take-all for the SEC West title at Auburn in the final game of the regular-season, snapping their streak of three straight SEC West titles.
Alabama, Georgia and Auburn were hands down the three best teams in the conference last year. No other team reached double-digit wins and just two others posted a winning record in conference play (LSU & South Carolina).
As is the case just about every year, there’s a number of teams in the SEC who believe they have what it takes to not just win the conference but win the whole thing. With that said, there’s no way I’m picking against Alabama to win the SEC in 2018.
The Crimson Tide may only return 10 starters, but it doesn’t really matter with the way they recruit. This is hands down the most talented team in the country. What really has me high on Alabama this year is sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who came off the bench to save the day in the championship game against Georgia. I think he’s special and the offense will be lethal.
The two biggest threats to the Crimson Tide in the West are Mississippi State and Auburn. There’s also a lot of buzz in College Station with Jimbo Fisher taking over at Texas A&M.
Most will have Georgia repeating in the East, but I’m going to take Florida to pull off the minor upset and win the division. The Gators are loaded with 19 starters back and I absolutely loved the hire of Dan Mullen, who did a tremendous job with far less talent at Mississippi State. The only other team in the East with an outside shot at the title is South Carolina.
SEC West – Alabama (8-0, 12-0)
SEC East – Florida (7-1, 11-1)
Champion – Alabama
You can be assured the Big Ten didn’t take kindly to getting left out of the playoffs last year. Several teams had impressive resumes, but they simply didn’t stack up against the other teams that were selected. Overall there were 5 different teams that won at least 10 games. Ohio State won the East at 8-1, while the Badgers ran the table and went 9-0 in league play. Wisconsin likely would have got into the playoffs had they not lost to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game.
There’s a good chance that the Big Ten will be fielding a playoff team in 2018. You have four legit threats in the East with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, while Wisconsin figures to be the only real contender in the West.
My favorite to emerge out of these teams is Michigan, who are not only my pick to win the Big Ten, but the national championship (see playoff predictions below). The Wolverines are now in year four under Jim Harbaugh and will bring back 17 returning starters and add in a big time talent in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson at quarterback.
While I have the Wolverines finishing just one game ahead of both Ohio State and Michigan State in the East, I do think Penn State is going to struggle some with the loss of Barkley and offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead (HC at Miss St).
I would be shocked if any team other than Wisconsin won the West. Iowa probably has the best shot given their easy schedule and the fact they get the Badgers at home, but that’s a major long shot. The other team worth keeping an eye on is Nebraska, who couldn’t be more ecstatic about the hire of head coach Scott Frost, who guided UCF to a perfect 14-0 record last year.
Big 10 West – Michigan (8-1, 11-1)
Big 10 East – Wisconsin (7-2, 10-2)
Champion – Michigan
Oklahoma has finished on top of the Big 12 standings each of the last three years and are the odds on favorite to win the conference again in 2018. While The Sooners are going to field a top notch team, I think they are primed to slip a bit after losing Mayfield.
I’m going to instead take a shot on Texas to emerge out of the Big 12 this year, as I think the Longhorns will be greatly improved in year two under head coach Tom Herman. Texas went just 7-6 last year, but 5 of their losses were by 10-points or less and 4 were decided by 5 or less. With 14 starters back and key games against TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State at home, I think the Longhorns are a legit playoff contender.
As you can see, I have TCU finishing second in the Big 12, which would earn them a spot in the title game. Though it is worth noting that I have both Oklahoma and TCU finishing with a 6-3 conference mark. The Horned Frogs get the edge, as I have them beating the Sooners at home.
West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are all quality teams and if things break their way they could surprise. With that said, my biggest surprise team in the Big 12 this year is Baylor, who I have finishing 8-4 after going just 1-11 last year.
Big 12 Title Game: Texas (8-1, 11-1) vs TCU (6-3, 8-4)
This was probably the easiest of the Power 5 conferences for me to predict, at least in terms of what two teams were going to be playing in the ACC Championship Game. I think Clemson is the clear-cut favorite to win the Atlantic and Miami is head and shoulders above the other teams in the Coastal. That means we are headed for a title game rematch. Last year the Tigers beat the Hurricanes in convincing fashion (38-3), but I got Miami getting their revenge and with that the resume should be good enough to make the playoffs.
While it will be difficult for any team to catch Clemson in the Atlantic, I think Florida State has the best shot. Prior to injuries derailing last season, the Seminoles had gone 5 straight seasons with 10 or more wins. They should be greatly improved, especially on offense (8 starters back), and get that important showdown with Clemson at home.
My big surprise team in the Atlantic is Boston College, who has 16 starters back and will be one of the more talented teams top to bottom in the ACC. I also think people are sleeping on Louisville after losing Lamar Jackson.
In the Coastal, I think you could make a case for three teams to dethrone the Hurricanes. The most obvious of those is Virginia Tech, who get Miami at home. The other two are North Carolina and Duke.
ACC Atlantic – Clemson (7-1, 11-1)
ACC Coastal – Miami (7-1, 11-1)
Champion – Miami
The Pac-12 might not be as strong top to bottom as the other Power 5 conferences, but there’s some really good teams at the top and a lot of other teams who are trending in the right direction.
Last year USC was one of the favorites to not only win the Pac-12, but compete for a national championship. The Trojans did end up defeating Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, but an ugly 14-49 loss at Notre Dame kept them out of playoff consideration.
USC is the favorite to win the South again in 2018, but you could argue that they are actually the 4th best team in the conference behind Washington, Stanford and Oregon. The big question is how will USC fair replacing Sam Darnold at quarterback. If someone emerges, this might very well end up being the team to beat.
I’ll go ahead and take the Trojans to win the South, but my favorite team in the Pac-12 is Washington. The Huskies are just two years removed from making the playoffs and have 17 returning starters from a team that finished 10-3. I believe this year’s version is even better than the one from a couple years ago and I have Washington headed back to the playoffs.
One team that I haven’t mentioned that is a legit Wild Card is UCLA. While the Bruins have just 12 returning starters and have to replace a big time talent at quarterback in Josh Rosen, they made a splash hire with head coach Chip Kelly. It’s been five years since Kelly last coached at the collegiate level, but he went 46-7 (34-3 in Pac-12) in his 4 years at Oregon.
Pac-12 North – Washington (8-1, 11-1)
Pac-12 South – USC (7-2, 9-3)
Champion – Washington
The American Athletic (ACC) is widely considered the best of the Group of 5 conferences, but it seems unlikely any team will ever put together the kind of resume needed to get into the 4-team playoff. Last year UCF gave it their best shot, as they finished a perfect 13-0 with a 62-55 win over Memphis in the AAC title game. While the Knights missed out on the playoffs, they did knock off Auburn 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to finish the year undefeated.
While UCF loses head coach Scott Frost, they figure to remain the team to beat in the East. The Knights will once again light up the scoreboard as they get back their star quarterback McKenzie Milton, who did it all. Milton threw for 4,037 yards with 37 touchdowns and rushed for another 613 yards and 8 scores. With that said, I don’t think this will be as strong a team that went 14-0 last year.
In the West there’s going to be a lot of people that just pick Memphis to repeat, but I’m going in a different direction and taking Houston to not only win the division, but also defeat UCF in the title game. The Cougars are going to have one of the best defenses in the conference behind All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver and I’m expecting big things from the offense under new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
AAC West – Houston (7-1, 10-2)
AAC East – UCF (6-2, 8-4)
Champion – Houston
There’s now six Independent schools with Liberty and New Mexico State joining the likes of Notre Dame, BYU, Army and UMass. There should be no debate on which of these team is the best of the bunch. Notre Dame is coming off a 10-3 season and are a legit national title contender with 15 starters back. If junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush can take that next step, this should be one of the most potent offenses that Notre Dame has featured in the last decade. The defense could also rival that of the 2012 team that played for the title against Alabama.
The only thing standing in the way of the Irish is a brutal schedule that features 10 games against Power 5 opponents. Notre Dame has to host Michigan, Stanford and Florida State, while also playing the likes of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Northwestern and USC on the road.
Best Record – Notre Dame (9-3)
Best Team – Notre Dame (9-3)
The Mountain West has been full of surprises the past couple of years. In 2015 Wyoming tied for last in the Mountain with a 2-6 record. The very next year they won the division with a 6-2 mark. As impressive as that was, it was nothing compared to the turnaround Fresno State pulled off last year. The Bulldogs finished 10-4 and won the West with a 7-1 league mark just one year after they finished 1-11 with a 0-8 record in MWC play.
Fresno State ended up losing to Boise State in the MWC title game, which surprisingly was the first conference championship for the Broncos since 2014. As crazy as this conference has been, I don’t think we are in for many surprises at the top in 2018. Boise State is without a doubt the team to beat, as the Broncos bring back 16 starters and have an experienced and talented senior quarterback in Brett Rypien.
The only real debate is who will be facing off against Boise State in the MWC title game. A lot of people will be calling for a rematch against Fresno State, as the Bulldogs bring back 15 starters, but I’m going to side with San Diego State, who has been one of the most consistent teams in the conference of late. The Aztecs are working on 3 straight double-digit win seasons and have 14 starters back.
MWC Mountain – Boise State (7-1, 11-1)
MWC West– San Diego State (7-1, 10-2)
Champion – Boise State
One of the best stories of 2018 came from Conference USA and the remarkable turnaround by FAU in the first year under head coach Lane Kiffin. The Owls had posted 3 straight 3-9 seasons before going 11-3 last year, which included a perfect record in league play and 41-17 blowout win over North Texas in the CUSA title game.
FAU has one of the best kept secrets in college football in running back Devin Singletary, who is coming off a monster sophomore campaign. Singletary rushed for 1,920 yards with a ridiculous 32 touchdowns. He’s going to be the focal point of an offense that should score at will against the sub-par defenses they will face in this conference. The Owls also bring back 10 starters from a defense that allowed just 22.7 ppg and 390 ypg after giving up 39.8 ppg and 514 ypg in 2016.
While I’m picking FAU to win the East and so will just about everyone else, I wouldn’t be shocked if Marshall ended up winning the division. The Thundering Herd went on the road and gave FAU all they could handle last year and will have 18 starters back (9 offense, 9 defense). Marshall also gets to host FAU this year and the winner of that game likely wins the division.
There’s 3 teams that figure to have a legit shot at winning the West with Louisiana Tech, UAB and North Texas. My money is on the Bulldogs, who have 15 starters back and for the first time in the 6 years under head coach Skip Holtz will get back their starting QB from the previous season.
C-USA East – FAU (8-0, 10-2)
C-USA West – Louisiana Tech (7-1, 9-3)
Champion – FAU
With so many MAC games being played early in the week, this is a conference that you need to study if you like action. Last year Toledo finally broke through and won the conference after several years where they came up short despite looking like the most talented team. The Rockets were the only team in the conference to reach double-digit wins, finishing the year at 11-3.
This year figures to be as entertaining as any in the MAC, as we have legit races for the top spot in each division. Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan are all contenders in the West, while Miami (OH) and Ohio figure to battle it out in the East.
My pick to win the West is Northern Illinois, who brings back 14 starters, including 8 on the offensive side of the ball. After an impressive freshman season, sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers should have the Huskies putting up close to 40 ppg in 2018.
In the East I’m going to take Miami (OH). A lot of people though the Redhawks were in store for a big season in 2017, as they had 17 returning starters from a team that went 6-2 in the MAC the previous year. They didn’t live up to the hype, but will have 16 starters back and will be one of the most experienced team in the country with as many as 15 senior starters.
MAC West – Northern Illinois (7-1, 8-4)
MAC East – Miami, OH (7-1, 10-2)
Champion – Miami, OH
Here’s another conference that plays a ton of weekday games, but also one of the hardest conferences to predict. This year the Sun Belt will be moving to two divisions (5 teams each) and will feature its first ever title game.
The East division figures to be a two-team battle between Appalachian State and Troy, both of which finished tied on top the standings last year with a 7-1 record in league play (didn’t play each other). I’m giving the slight edge to the Trojans, despite the fact that they have to go on the road to face the Mountaineers in the final game of the season.
In the West, it would be a major shock if anyone other than Arkansas State finished on top the standings. The Red Wolves have 7 starters back on offense, including the best QB in the conference in Justice Hansen, from a team that lit up the scoreboard last year with 37.8 ppg and 495 ypg.
Sun Belt East – Troy (7-1, 9-3)
Sun Belt West – Arkansas State (7-1, 9-3)
Champion – Arkansas State
Playoff Projections & Team Power Rankings (Top 25 + More)
(1) Alabama over (4) Washington
(2) Michigan over (3) Miami
(2) Michigan over (1) Alabama
2018 Power Rankings
|8||Ohio State (10-2)|
|11||Mississippi St (10-2)|
|12||Michigan State (10-2)|
|13||Notre Dame (9-3)|
|17||Florida State (9-3)|
|21||Penn State (8-4)|
|22||Boston College (8-4)|
|23||Texas A&M (7-5)|
|24||South Carolina (8-4)|
|25||Boise St (11-1)|
|26||Virginia Tech (8-4)|
|28||West Virginia (8-4)|
Individual & Team NCAA Football Future Betting Odds
*Click link for full list of odds*
Top Odds to Make Playoffs
Top 10: Heisman Odds
|Player (Position, School)||Odds|
|Johnathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)||+750|
|Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)||+800|
|Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)||+900|
|Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)||+900|
|Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia)||+1200|
|Khalil Tate (QB, Arizona)||+1400|
|J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)||+1500|
|Jarrett Stidham (QB, Auburn)||+1600|
|Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)||+1800|
|Trace McSorley (QB, Penn St)||+1800|